The American Dream Factory is doing what it does best: business. Distributors of Hollywood movies are wooing video rental firms, which normally use copies of movies strictly meant for home use, to instead use legit copies for renting out.
Sony Pictures recently rolled out Rental Express in Indian metros: rental companies can pay an annual licence-fee that will legally allow them to buy Sony's movies for rental in India. The fee ranges from Rs 7,500 per year to Rs 50,000, depending on the reach of the companies; so while small DVD rental kiosks will pay the lower end, online movie-hire companies will pay the higher end.
Chander Lall, a lawyer representing the Motion Pictures Association of America, says that Hollywood loses $80 million every year due to illegal renting in India. It is tough to stop this trend, feels Anupam Sengupta, head of marketing, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. "So we decided to make them partners." Sony has hired an agency to get 500 such rental firms to sign up in the first year.
Around three million Indian households have DVD players. By 2010, says PricewaterhouseCoopers, that will go up to 13 million. And the home video viewing market will grow four-fold to Rs 2,100 crore, from Rs 550 crore currently.
Excel Home Entertainment, the Indian distributor of 20th Century Fox and Walt Disney, started a licensing programme in October and has, so far, signed up 80 outlets in Mumbai and 140 in New Delhi.
It released DVDs of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest to its 'partner' video outlets two weeks before the retail launch.
The move worked. "Many of them came forward to be a part of it," says George Anthony Joseph of Excel. A Saregama India official added that his company too is working on a similar model. Saregama distributes DVDs for Warner Brothers, Universal Pictures and Paramount Pictures.